MISSION CENTER
Johnson Drive and Roe Avenue
Mission, Kansas

One of Kansas City, Kansas' first post-war shopping centers was built on a 26 acre tract, located 5 miles south of downtown Kansas City, Kansas. MISSION CENTER, an open-air, strip-type complex, was designed by Howard T. Fisher Associates of Chicago. Encompassing 190,000 leasable square feet, MISSION CENTER housed twenty-four stores and services. The official grand opening was held July 30, 1956.

Anchoring the shopping hub was a 3-level (70,000 square foot) Macy's Kansas City. Charter tenants included Parkview Rexall Drug, a W.T. Grant variety store, F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and Kroger supermarket.

This strip center was in existence for over 30 years. It was demolished in 1988, with the Macy's store left standing. This was rebranded by Dillard's and incorporated into a bi-level, fully-enclosed shopping venue known as MISSION CENTER MALL.

Encompassing 351,000 leasable square feet, the complex was completed in 1989. It featured a multilevel parking structure, which occupied the north end of the property. There was store space for fifty tenants, including a "double header" Dillard's operation.

The largest of these, "Dillard's South", occupied the original Macy's building. This store sold women's apparel, accessories and items for the home. The smaller (60,000 square foot) "Dillard's North" handled men's and children's wear. Other retailers in the shopping hub included The Limited, Express, Wolf Camera, Foot Locker, Rene's Hallmark and GNC.

The community-type mall did well enough, even though there were several competing enclosed shopping centers in its vicinity. These included METCALF SOUTH CENTER (1967) {4.7 miles southwest, in Overland Park, Kansas} and OAK PARK MALL (1975) {6 miles southwest, also in Overland Park}.

Perhaps the land that MISSION CENTER sat on was simply too valuable, or it could have been that the owners of the shopping center simply wanted to retire. Whatever the case, the complex was sold to the East Syracuse, New York-based Cameron Group in February 2006.

Plans were devisded to tear down the "outmoded" mall and replace it with a mixed-use retail, office, hotel and condominium development. MISSION CENTER MALL was shuttered February 12, 2006 and demolished in March of the same year.

By 2008, four tenants had been secured for a 307 million dollar complex. Known as MISSION GATEWAY, it was to encompass 800,000 square feet. The primary attraction, a 3-level (70,000 square foot) salt water aquarium, was to be joined by Urban Active Fitness, Studio Movie Grill, an 8-screen megaplex cinema and a hotel.

Unfortunately, The Great Recession seized up the credit market and made retailers wary of any kind of expansion. The bank that was to provide financing for the project raised the minimum number of tenants necessary to free money for construction.

The project sat dead in the water for 3 years. In November 2011, it was announced that WalMart had agreed to build a 150,000 square foot store as part of the MISSION GATEWAY project. In retrospect, this seemed odd, given that a similar redevelopment proposal, including a WalMart store, had been rejected by the City of Mission and local residents in 2004.

With WalMart on board, construction on MISSION GATEWAY was scheduled to commence in the spring of 2012. The complex was to include the aforementioned aquarium and multiplex cinema. There would also be an additional 150,000 square feet of retail, 150,000 square feet of office space, a fitness center and over three hundred residential units.

In early 2012, the neighboring city of Roeland Park, Kansas challenged state-supplied financial incentives that were being given to the MISSION GATEWAY project. Roeland Park's circa-1996 WalMart, a major sales tax generator for the city, was to close as a new MISSION GATEWAY store opened.

The beleaguered MISSION GATEWAY project had been presented with -yet- another delay before its construction could get underway. In June 2012, it was announced that the proposed hotel and aquarium had been dropped from the project. The point of contention over state funding being used for the construction of the complex had been removed.

With this hurdle out of the way, it was hoped that construction could finally get underway in late 2012...6 years after its commencement had been originally scheduled. The groundbreaking date was moved up to the spring of 2013 and delayed -again- in August 2013.

From all appearances, it looked like that the project was back on track in late 2016. Construction on a first phase was plotted to begin in March 2017. This would entail building one hundred and sixty-eight residential units and 50,000 square feet of retail.

A second phase would consist of a two hotels, one with one hundred and fifty rooms, the second with fifty. Phase three would add 110,000 square feet of selling space to the complex.

Sources:

preservenet.cornell.edu/publications/Longstreth Branch Store.doc
http://www.kcmo.org
Kansas City, Kansas Public Library
Johnson County, Kansas Tax Assessor website
http://www.shopmissioncenter.com/
http://sunpublications.com
http://www.mission-ks.org
http://www.thegatewaylife.com
http://www.mission-ks.org
www.kansascity.com


FAIR USE OF MISSION CENTER IMAGE:

The photograph from The Johnson County Museum illustrates a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The image is not replaceable with free-use or public-domain image. The use of the image does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the image in any way. The image is being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and its use is not believed to detract from the original image in any way.